Friday, June 18, 2010

Warlords of Europe

It's not often that I get the chance to have a game demoed to me by the designer, so after Warlords of Europe designer Ken Griffin took the time to demo his game at Castle House this past Wednesday, I think it's only fair that I take the time to review the game he designed.

I generally like to start my reviews with the bad first, and then move on to the good points, and this review is no different. I emphasize this because while I am critical of some aspects of this game, I have a lot of good things to say too, so be sure and read it all.

I'll start by stating up front that the style of game that Warlords represents really isn't my thing anymore. It has its roots firmly in the "ameritrash" style of games typified by Risk and Axis & Allies, and I've come to prefer "eurogame" style games.

Two key elements of Warlords' design really stand out as negatives to me: player elimination and the lack of a timer mechanism to keep the game from going on for an extended period of time. These are pretty big red flags to me in the games I now choose to play, and will probably keep me from adding this game to my personal collection.

That said, if those aren't factors that are important to you, then there's a lot to like about this game. To start with, the game is pretty to look at. The map is beautiful, and the plastic pieces are well done. Like most games of its type, things can get crowded on the map as play progresses, but using the provided token chips helps keep things under control such that the overall visual experience is pleasant.

The mechanics of the game are fairly simple, but well implemented. Combat is a matter of both sides rolling a die for each unit against a target number determined by how good the unit is. A success makes the opponent remove a unit. The target number is always the same, but the defender may get to use larger dice if in defensive terrain, making it more likely that the attacker will take casualties. There are a few other factors that are involved, but that's basically it. A combat continues until either one side is wiped out, or the attacker retreats.

There's a basic economic engine in the game, where players collect money based on how much territory they control. Different types of territory are worth varying amounts of income. Players can also earn bonus income in certain situations, such as controlling all the territories of a kingdom. Money is used mainly to buy more troops, but can also be used for a few other things.

Players all take their individual turns moving and attacking before taking common turns collecting and spending their income. This keeps things from getting too Risk-like with huge armies being deployed and used before anyone else can respond. New forces are deployed by all players before any player gets to use their new forces.

One of the most interesting parts of the game is the three card decks: conquest, papal, and merchant. These cards all provide unique abilities when played, usually either being instantaneous or lasting over one turn. Players usually have the opportunity to earn one of each type of card per turn, depending on what they do. A conquest card is earned if a player conquers at least one territory that turn, a papal card is earned automatically unless the player has earned papal disfavor, and a merchant card is bought with money.

A lot of the strategy of the game is deciding when to use the cards you have. Used properly they can often turn the tide of a battle. They also provide a lot of flavor to the game through the descriptions of what is causing the mechanical effects the card describes, such as the outbreak of plague, the return of crusaders, or the uprising of peasants.

There are different scenarios based on how many players there are (the game allows for 2 to 4 players), and how long a game they want to play. We played a "shorter" scenario and three hours later we called it quits as it was getting late, and it was apparent who was most likely to win. It probably would have taken another hour to play through to its conclusion had we continued, so even the short scenarios can still be lengthy.

It reminded me of Axis & Allies in many ways, both good and bad, and if you like Axis & Allies, then I think you could really get into this game too.

No comments:

Post a Comment